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News and features

CPT starts London coach parking trial

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) has teamed up with bus operator Go-Ahead to provide an extra 1,000 coach parking spaces in central London this spring.

Starting on Monday 16 May, 30 coach parking spaces will be available to CPT members each day at Go-Ahead’s Camberwell (20) and Stockwell (10) bus depots for a six-week trial period (ends Friday 24 June).

The coach parking facilities will be open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and charged at £35 per day (plus an administration charge of £1.50 plus VAT).

Speaking about the trial, CPT’s chief executive, Simon Posner says: “I’m delighted that we’ve reached an agreement with Go-Ahead to provide CPT members with an extra 30 coach parking spaces each day in London at a time when other facilities are either being removed or having restrictions placed on them.

“Coach parking and the picking-up and setting-down of passengers has long been a contentious issue for operators visiting the Capital, and I hope this announcement goes some way to addressing their concerns while also ensuring that coaches can continue to operate in this great city.

“I am confident that a successful six-week trial will be the catalyst for further initiatives and we will certainly be looking to make the arrangement with Go-Ahead at Camberwell and Stockwell a permanent one.

“I hope that CPT members will take advantage of the coach parking spaces on offer and I look forward to receiving their feedback on both the facility provided and the payment and booking system.”

Bookings can be made by calling a dedicated credit card hotline on 020 7257 2507 (open from 10am to 4pm on Monday to Friday), or by emailing parkmycoach@cpt-uk.org. All bookings and payments must be made in advance.

Seine-et-Marne targets UK tour planners

The French region of Seine-et-Marne to the east of Paris is launching a new campaign to attract more groups from the UK.

The campaign is being run under the ‘Paris What Else’ branding, highlighting the close proximity of the area to the French capital, and encouraging tour planners to look at the region’s attractions when refreshing a Paris-based itinerary.

The Seine-et-Marne tourist office is also relaunching its central information and booking service to make it easier for coach tour operators and group travel organisers to understand what the region has to offer groups.

Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Florence Bruaux, head of tourism at Seine-et-Marne Tourisme, says: “Our region is already well known in the UK because it is home to Disneyland Paris. But there is much more to discover, including the Châteaux of Fontainebleau, Vaux le Vicomte and Champs-sur-Marne, the medieval walled town of Provins and the Museum of the Great War in Meaux.

“Under our marketing brand of ‘Paris What Else’ we want to highlight the possibilities for groups to combine a visit to Paris with visits to our wonderful attractions. The region also has a number of quality, group-friendly hotels that give tour planners the option to stay in one of our charming towns, and then travel into Paris.

“Our central information and booking service means that coach tour operators and group travel organisers can contact us for information about places to visit, and where to stay. We will then make all the arrangements. We want to encourage more UK groups to visit us, so we’re making it as easy as possible for this to happen.”

As part of the campaign, the tourist office is holding a trade workshop in central London on 14 and 15 June. For more information on the workshop email stuart@stuartrendertourism.co.uk.

To contact the central information and booking service email Marjorie Sebille at sebille@tourisme77.fr or go to www.visit.pariswhatelse.fr

www.Paris-whatelse.com is a brand of Tourism 77, the official tourism booking agency for the Eastern Paris region. With its head office in the historic city of Fontainebleau it has specialised in creating packages for groups for the past 25 years and packages for individuals since 2003. The new website provides unique tour packages dedicated to Paris and the Champagne-Ardenne region for groups, couples, families, corporate groups and individuals.

Florence Bruaux, head of tourism at Seine-et-Marne Tourism. The tourist organisation has launched a new campaign to encourage UK groups to visit the region
Florence Bruaux, head of tourism at Seine-et-Marne Tourism. The tourist organisation has launched a new campaign to encourage UK groups to visit the region

 

 

 

 

Gretna Green awarded Coach Friendly Attraction status

Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop has been awarded the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK’s new Coach Friendly Attraction status.

This is the fourth attraction, and the first in Scotland, to receive the status since the scheme was launched at the British Tourism & Travel Show in March. The status was presented to the attraction at VisitScotland expo last week.

Alf Scrimgour, CPT’s Operations & Tourism Executive says: “CPT is delighted to welcome Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop to this new scheme. The status recognises the commitment the attraction has made to making sure that coach parties receive a very warm welcome when visiting. The attraction is obviously extremely well known nationally and internationally and it has never wavered in its commitment to make sure that their offer is second to none. CPT congratulates it on being the first attraction in Scotland to be awarded the new status.”

Commenting on the status, Lynda Denton from the attraction says: “We are delighted to have received this award from the CPT. As an independent family business we very much value nurturing relationships within the tourism industry and a big part of that is not only building close bonds with those who plan tour itineraries but ensuring that we have products and services that their clients find enriching. At the end of the day that is who we all serve.

“We have created experiences for visitors to Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop so that even those that are not here to marry take away special memories of good times spent at our historic and very romantic attraction.”

Previous recipients of the status are Woburn Abbey and Gardens, West Midland Safari and Leisure Park, and Sabrina Boat in Shrewsbury.

Malcolm Roughhead and Lynda Denton. Photo (c) Chris Watt Tel: 07887 554 193 info@chriswatt.com www.chriswatt.com
Lynda Denton of Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop is seen with Malcolm Roughhead OBE, chief executive of VisitScotland. Photo (c) Chris Watt/Cumbria Crack
Tel: 07887 554 193
info@chriswatt.com
www.chriswatt.com

Emmerdale studio tours to start this summer

The studio complex in Leeds where ITV soap Emmerdale is filmed is to open for tours later this summer.

The Burley Road complex, situated just over a mile west of the city centre, will be home to the ‘Emmerdale Studio Experience’, giving groups the opportunity to see behind the scenes.

The new attraction is being delivered by Continuum Attractions in partnership with ITV. Continuum Attractions is the company responsible for the successful ‘Coronation Street The Tour’ in Manchester, and the introduction in 2015 of group visits to Emmerdale’s exterior filming sets on the Harewood Estate between Leeds and Harrogate.

Continuum Attractions says: “Continuum Attractions is pleased to confirm the intent to deliver the ‘Emmerdale Studio Experience’, in partnership with ITV. Subject to planning, the Burley Road Studios in central Leeds will open to the public in the late summer of 2016 to showcase a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of one of ITV’s best loved soaps. Following the resounding success of ‘Coronation Street The Tour’, Continuum Attractions is delighted to continue its working relationship with ITV.”

Details of how to buy tickets will be released in May.

Continuum Attractions operates an award-winning portfolio of visitor experiences across the UK including Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, York’s Chocolate Story, Oxford Castle Unlocked and The Canterbury Tales. The company is also working with The Royal Mint in South Wales to deliver ‘The Royal Mint Experience’, a new factory experience and interactive exhibition that’s due to open on 18 May.

Emmerdale's interior filming sets are due to open to the public later this year
After the exterior filming sets of ITV soap ‘Emmerdale’ were opened to groups in 2015, the interior filming sets in Leeds are due to open to the public later this year

The Hotel Collection portfolio for sale

The Hotel Collection has placed what is understood to be its 10 remaining hotels on the market for what is reported to be a combined value of £130m.

The hotels include some of the coach tourism industry’s favourites, including The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate, The Redworth Hall Hotel in County Durham, The Imperial Hotel in Torquay and The Imperial Hotel in Blackpool.

Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, the property company handling the sale, says: “We are pleased to be bringing this significant collection of hotels to market. The distinctive heritage and character of each property has been maintained while generating a robust collective income. The Hotel Collection portfolio also offers numerous value-add and asset management opportunities to further enhance the long term revenue.”

The Hotel Collection, previously known as Puma Hotels, was acquired by US property investment firm Lone Star Funds in 2014. In 2015, Lone Star, which also owns Jurys Inn, announced the creation of Amaris Hospitality, a company focused on properties operating under various international brands such as Hilton, Doubletree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn from Hilton Worldwide, Mercure and MGallery from AccorHotels. At the time it was reported that Lone Star was likely to dispose of the individual properties that made up the Hotel Collection.

The 10 hotels are: The Majestic, Harrogate; The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton; The Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham; The Imperial Hotel, Torquay; The Billesley Manor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon; The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool; Shrigley Hall Hotel, Golf and Country Club, Macclesfield; The Stirling Highland Hotel; The Aberdeen Altens Hotel; and The Angel Hotel, Cardiff.

Note: Lone Star Funds was in the news again this week when it was announced that it had acquired Shearings Group.

Majestic Hotel, Harrogate
The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate is one of The Hotel Collection’s 10 hotels that has been put up for sale

Shearings changes ownership

Tour operator Shearings is reported to have been acquired from its management team by US property investment firm Lone Star Funds.

The Manchester Evening News and Travel Weekly report that the Wigan-based group has also acquired Equalmatch, the Chesterfield-based specialist firm which owns the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands. The move looks set to consolidate Shearings’ position as one of Europe’s largest specialist holiday operators and will complement its fast-growing National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK.

Lone Star Funds, the company behind the SSE Arena at Wembley, was previously a minority investor in Shearings. Shearings Group was the subject of a management buyout from 3i in 2014.

It is understood that the Equalmatch deal underlines Lone Star’s intention to grow Shearings’ business through selected acquisitions, with a future stock market listing or sale of the enlarged group understood to be likely. Shearings says the acquisition will complement its “fast-growing” National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK.

The change to the Group’s ownership structure sees former Travelodge chief executive and chairman Grant Hearn, already a non-executive director, take over as chairman, with Denis Wormwell remaining as chief executive. Grant Hearn already chairs another Lone Star-backed business, Amaris Hospitality, which owns a number of Jurys Inn and Accor hotels.

Shearings has also announced a 30% increase in profits to £9.1m for 2015, up from £7m in 2014. The specialist operator of escorted tours and leisure hotels made a pre-tax profit of £5m compared to a loss of £900,000 last year.

In the 12 months to December 2015, the group carried 1.1m passengers, up 2% on the previous year, and increased revenues to £201m, up from £200m – a record in the group’s 100-year history.

Shearings says strong demand for its UK holidays, together with margin improvements and operating cost reductions, contributed to the record performance.

The Group has also continued to invest in its infrastructure with increased spend on hotel refurbishments of £4.6m, that’s up from £3.6m in 2014, and the largest ever UK order of Mercedes Benz Euro 6 coaches with 46 new, high specification vehicles joining the 240-strong fleet this month.

Denis Wormwell says: “This was another landmark year for the Group, with a fourth successive year of improved financial results, continued investment in the business, new ownership and our first business acquisition since 2005. With the backing of a long-term investment partner, our best ever line up of holidays and hotels, a well-invested estate and fleet and the loyalty of our fast-expanding over-50s audience, we’re in the ideal position to continue growing our presence and position as the leading escorted tours operator.”

Shearings is under new ownership and has acquired the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands
Shearings is under new ownership and has acquired the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands

Major expansion at Beamish

Beamish Museum is to build a 1950s town and a Georgian coaching inn as part of a major £17m expansion that looks set to attract an additional 100,000 visitors to the region each year. Construction of what the attraction describes as the single largest project ever undertaken, is due to start at the end of this year and will include a replica Weardale farm.

Richard Evans, Beamish Museum Director, says: “We’re really delighted with the news that our exciting development plans for Beamish over the next four years now have planning approval. It is a real milestone in the 45-year history of the region’s living museum. This is the single largest project ever undertaken at Beamish. It will enable us to create a range of new exhibits for visitors to enjoy across the museum site, offering people new ways to experience the history of the North East.

“We will continue to focus on what makes Beamish the special place that it is, using our collections to tell the story of everyday life in our region through time. The new development will demonstrate a time of huge change for the people of the North East and will ensure Beamish tells the story of a period still in living memory, just as was the case when the living museum was first founded back in the 1970s.

“By 2020 we hope to welcome some 750,000 people every year, including nearly 400,000 tourists from outside the region, which will have a huge impact on the economy in many communities. We will also create around 95 new jobs and 50 apprentices at the museum, meaning we should be employing around 500 people by the end of this decade.”

Beamish is working with communities across north east England and has received initial support for a £10.75m Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The 1950s town plans include a cinema, houses, a cafe and aged miners’ homes. The 1820s expansion will feature a coaching inn, where Beamish’s nationally-significant Georgian collections will be displayed, a windmill that was shipped from Sweden to Blyth, and a replica of the home of Joe the Quilter.

Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, brings history to life, with the unforgettable sights, sounds, and delicious tastes of the past at 1820s Pockerley, 1900s Town and Pit Village and 1940s Farm. Visitors to the 350 acre open air museum discover fascinating stories, meet costumed folk and explore homes, shops and other buildings – many of which were moved to the museum from across the region.

For more information, go to www.beamish.org.uk

 

A cinema will feature in the new 1950s town to be built at Beamish
A cinema will feature in the new 1950s town to be built at Beamish

 

Galloway Travel Group acquired

Bernie Miles, who received the Coach Monthly Special Award at the 2015 National Coach Tourism Awards for his outstanding contribution to coach tourism, intends to retire this November as the acquisition of Galloway Travel Group is completed
Bernie Miles, who received the Coach Monthly Special Award at the 2015 National Coach Tourism Awards for his outstanding contribution to coach tourism, intends to retire this November as the acquisition of Galloway Travel Group is completed

Suffolk-based Galloway Travel Group has been bought by Eastern Transport Holdings (ETH), a new holding company directed by Bill Hiron, the managing director of Stephensons of Essex, and past president of the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK.

It is understood that the process of acquisition will be completed by 30 November, with managing director David Cattermole, commercial director John ‘Bernie’ Miles, and financial director Roger Stedman intending to retire from the business.

With immediate effect, Galloway’s directors are delegating day-to-day involvement in the business to their existing management team of Richard Smith, Dan Rogers and Charles Pratt.

Galloway will continue to trade as a stand-alone business, distinct from other operations of ETH, operating from its existing head office and operating base at Mendlesham in Suffolk.

Roger Elsmere receives industry accolade

Roger Elsmere receives the Coach Monthly Special Award from (l-r) event host Anthea Turner, Jane Richardson from category sponsor Hilton Worldwide, and Jessamy Chapman from Coach Monthly
Roger Elsmere receives the Coach Monthly Special Award from (l-r) event host Anthea Turner, Jane Richardson from category sponsor Hilton Worldwide, and Jessamy Chapman from Coach Monthly

Roger Elsmere, the founder and managing director of Bognor Regis-based Woods Travel, has received industry recognition for his outstanding contribution to coach tourism.
Roger was presented with the Coach Monthly Special Award at this year’s National Coach Tourism Awards (NCTA).

Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset won the award for Coach Friendly Destination of the Year, recognition of the work put in by the Project Coach team of Ian Jefferies and Les Barber. Burnham has been a finalist for the last three years; this time, success was theirs.

Blackburn Market won Coach Friendly Shopping Destination of the Year at the first go, testament to the enthusiasm of the market team.

The Ullswater ‘Steamers’ were celebrating having picked up the award for River and Inland Cruise Operator of the Year, some welcome good news after a winter that saw the floods in the Lake District severely disrupt the company’s operations.

Burnham
Les Barber and Ian Jefferies of Burnham-on-Sea’s Project Coach

The NCTA, now in its 11th year, and organised by Diversified Communications and Coach Monthly magazine, is the only national awards scheme to specifically focus on coach tourism, recognising excellence and development among coach tour operators, destinations, visitor attractions, tourism suppliers, hotels and other tourism organisations.
The event, held on Wednesday 16 March, and hosted by television personality Anthea Turner, took place at the Vox, Resorts World Birmingham, at the NEC.

For more information about the NCTA, go to www.ncta.co.uk

Here’s the list of this year’s winners:

Coach Friendly Destination of the Year
Sponsored by My Day Out
Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset

Coach Friendly Visitor Attraction of the Year
Jointly sponsored by Planet Hollywood and Hospitality Line
Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Coach Friendly Shopping Destination of the Year
Sponsored by the British Tourism & Travel Show
Blackburn Market, Lancashire

Cross-Sea Carrier of the Year
Sponsored by Edwards Coach Holidays
CalMac Ferries

River and Inland Cruise Operator of the Year
Sponsored by the Coach Tourism Council (CTC)
Ullswater ‘Steamers’, Cumbria

Heritage Railway of the Year
Sponsored by DFDS
Vale of Rheidol Railway, Ceredigion

Accommodation Provider of the Year: Hotel Groups
Sponsored by Fieldfisher
Hallmark Hotels

Accommodation Provider of the Year: Individual Hotels
Sponsored by VisitScotland
Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton, North Yorkshire

Ticket Supplier of the Year
Sponsored by West Midland Safari & Leisure Park, Bewdley, Worcestershire
Encore Tickets

Tour Wholesaler of the Year
Sponsored by P&O Ferries
Greatdays Travel Group

Holiday Programme of the Year
Sponsored by Independent Coach Travel (ICT)
Shaws Coaches, Maxey, Cambridgeshire

Day Excursion Programme of the Year
Sponsored by Warner Leisure Hotels
Johnsons Coach Travel, Warwickshire

Coach Tour Operator Brochure of the Year
Sponsored by Towergate Chapman Stevens
Silver Star Holidays, Gwynedd

Coach Tourism Innovation of the Year
Sponsored by Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
Johnsons Coach Travel, Warwickshire – for ‘Bard on Board’

Coach Tourism Professional of the Year
Sponsored by Group Line
Alan Payling, owner of Coach Drivers Information Pack, Torbay, Devon

Coach Tour Driver of the Year
Sponsored by Cornmarket Insurance Services
Alyn Frankel, tours director at Moving People, Lancashire

Coach Tour Operator of the Year: Small Fleet (1 to 5 coaches)
Sponsored by Norman Allen Group Travel
Fenn Holidays, March, Cambridgeshire

Coach Tour Operator of the Year: Medium Fleet (6 to 15 coaches)
Sponsored by Roadchef
Parrys International Tours, Cheslyn Hey, West Midlands

Coach Tour Operator: Large Fleets (more than 15 coaches)
Sponsored by Wrightsure Insurance Services
Maynes Coaches (Moray and Orkney)

Coach Monthly Special Award
Sponsored by Hilton Worldwide
Roger Elsmere, managing director of Woods Travel, West Sussex